Fully Restored

I remember when one of my Bible college professors opened our first class of the year with a glass jar in his hands. He told the class that the jar was symbolic of the glory of God. He began to describe in great detail how perfect things were in the Garden of Eden. The class was completely quiet as we heard him elaborate on the glorious serenity Adam and Eve experienced daily.
 
Suddenly, he picked up a hammer and shattered the glass. Shards flew everywhere! He then expressed with deep compassion how the glory of God was shattered from mankind. He asked, “Have you ever met someone who is a little rough around the edge?” as he pointed to the sharp glass fragment still in his hand. Then he picked up more pieces off the floor and remarked, “Have you ever met someone who is edgy and impatient with people? Have you known someone who cuts others down with their words, always finding fault?”
 
Since sin entered the world with the fall of man, it doesn’t take long to look and see what this professor was illustrating. The more someone has experienced sin, the more they typically develop a sharpness and anger toward people. Whether a person is watching sin through media or experiencing it personally, it is like someone is taking the person’s heart each time and pouring sludge into it. The more sludge the heart is filled with, the more the enemy is able to work through a person to try to destroy them and those around them.
 
Even though God’s glory and perfection were all shattered in the life of man through sin, Jesus came and made a way for God’s glory to be fully restored in us when we choose to receive and walk with Him. Since we still live in a fallen world, how can we love others from a pure heart like Jesus loves us?
 
This is a question many people have had. Occasionally when we share the love of God with someone and invite him or her to accept Jesus, they may say, “Oh, I can’t do that! I’m too big of a sinner. I could never live my life right, the way I would have to in order to be a Christian.” Or they may say, “I think God is mad at me. He wouldn’t want me after all I’ve done.” What these people are really saying is, “I know God is holy and I also know in my own strength and ability I have major imperfections, so I don’t think He would want anything to do with me.”
 
The reality is, God gets great pleasure in taking someone the world considers a failure and making them into a great success! He enjoys showing Himself strong in the life of anyone who will look to Him for help. God loves people! It makes no difference to Him who we are or how bad we are failing. But remember, God is a true gentleman. He doesn’t force His love or ways on anyone. He patiently waits for us to give Him an invitation to our party. When He gets an invitation, watch out! He shows up quickly and He always brings presents! He’s always ready and waiting to freely impart His grace, love, and wisdom into anyone’s life who will call on Him.
 
Let’s look at how we can simply receive His goodness or you could say His “holiness” in our own heart. When we looked up holiness, one description we found says, “The holy people of God are called to holy living precisely because they have been made holy in Christ. Not as a means to that holiness.”Therefore, holiness is not something we earn, but rather something we receive. The Bible tells us that God alone is holy. (See Revelation 15:4.) Therefore, we can only be holy as He is holy through having a relationship with Him and receiving this by faith. It sounds deep, but it really is simple.
 
When we enter into this relationship by repenting of our sins and asking Jesus to be the leader of our life, we freely become partakers of His goodness. In other words, His holiness is a gift when we invite Jesus into our heart. As a result of His holiness living in us, we have the power to daily make the choice to live our life for Him.
 

I pray God reveals His goodness to you in a fresh new way, 

Pastor Shaun 


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We Reap what we Sow

When God created our world, He put into place a spiritual law called the law of sowing and reaping. We will reap what we sow, as we mentioned previously. Another way to say it is, what we give out (good or bad) eventually comes back to us over time.

This law applies to spiritual, emotional, and physical matters. A farmer sows cotton seed in the ground and eventually reaps a harvest of cotton. A person sows financially into a ministry, church, or missions they support, and God provides through multiple avenues to give them more to sow. A person sows their time and energy into reading Scripture and they reap the fruit of faith, wisdom, and understanding which directs their life into victory here on earth and for eternity.

 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9 NIV)

 

If we yield ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit daily through sowing into prayer time (unity practice), we open the door for God to personally start dumping His bucket of grace and mercy on our relationship over time. We can almost see Paul jumping up on a table here to get his point across and fervently shouting, “Don’t give up! Keep sowing to the Spirit! Keep seeking God and declaring His promises! Keep praying!”

In other words, don’t practice spiritual unity for a week or two and then forget about it. Strong physical muscles are built by us holding to our work-out routine, then continuing to maintain it in order to remain strong. Likewise, we build strong spiritual unity through consistent, daily effort which results in a lifelong bond, if we hold firm to it.

A Gallop Poll done by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement showed the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of every 1,152. If we can make our odds of divorce less than 1%, why wouldn’t we? According to an article in Redbook magazine, a University of Chicago survey on married couples revealed, “75 percent of the Americans who pray with their spouses reported that their marriages are “very happy” (compared to 57 percent of those who don’t). Those who pray together are also more likely to say they respect each other, discuss their marriage together, and — stop the presses — rate their spouses as skilled lovers.”

We started praying together each morning about six months into our first year of marriage. Couple prayer time wasn’t something we ever planned to do, but it has unquestionably been a life-altering experience for us! It was introduced to us as more of a challenge.

Shortly after getting married, our wonderfully wise pastor kindly asked the whole church if we would all be willing to sign up for a one-hour period in the day where we would commit to praying for the ministries and people of the church, as well as our nation, for 30 days. We thought it sounded like a noble cause to dedicate an hour to daily, so we jumped on board. After the month was over, we decided to keep praying together for at least 15 minutes each morning.

We really don’t know where we would be without this. It doesn’t remove all conflicts or challenges in life, but it definitely has connected us more than anything else and has helped us navigate through many of life’s storms. If you and your spouse currently pray alone, why not draw another leap closer to God and each other by adding couple prayer?

Matthew 6:33 encourages us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When we give God first place in our relationship, He will add His grace and power to our union in ways we couldn’t even imagine. We have found the more years we pray together, the more we grow in love and respect. We enjoy our relationship more now than when we were first married.

Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). Putting God first strengthens us to walk in love at home and have peace with those closest to us. By this the world will see we love each other. Is it true a marriage that prays together stays together? It sure has worked for us! Will it work for you? Why not take the challenge and see what happens?

 

Can’t wait to hear how God moves in and through your relationships, 

Pastors Shaun & Amy 


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How do we pray together?

During our prayer time we thank God for His goodness and we also make our requests to God with thanks. (See Philippians 4:6.) Daily prayer together should most often be a time of joy and praise, which builds an atmosphere of peace in our home.

There are several suggestions we make for couple prayer time. We recommend making time together in the morning if at all possible. Praying together while still snuggled in bed is wonderful because it bonds you spiritually as well as meeting each other’s need for affection. 

Another possibility is to take a walk together holding hands and praying. It will set you both on the same page when you communicate throughout the day, as well as when obstacles may arise. If morning isn’t feasible, we encourage you to pray together as soon as you can.

We also recommend that husband and wife each take turns, going back and forth praying for anything that comes up in your hearts. Some of the things we typically cover in our prayer times are:

 

  • Gratitude for things that come to mind
  • Prayer for each other’s day
  • Prayer for the family’s protection and wisdom
  • Prayer for extended family
  • Prayer for those in authority and leadership: President, nation, military, pastor, and employer
  • Prayer for our church and the marriages God puts on our heart

 

There are some alerts we do want to give you about couple prayer. First, remember not to criticize each other! We once had a couple say to us, “This prayer together thing just doesn’t work.” When we probed as to why, we found out they ended up fighting like cats and dogs every time because they would pray for the other one to grow up or change in whatever areas they felt they didn’t measure up! Correction is not the goal here, friends! We should leave our prayer time together feeling encouraged and built-up!

Second, remember to edify each other’s families in prayer. Prayer for one another’s extended family should be done oozing with kindness and love. When we pray for our spouse’s family in a positive way, thanking God to help them and meet their needs, we will begin to look at our spouse’s family as our own. Pray blessing upon them, even if they are difficult! When this happens and your spouse hears you valuing their family, it builds trust.

Third, know sometimes couples feel awkward when they first begin to pray together. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle when you were a kid. Sometimes it was difficult to get up and moving, but you eventually learned to balance and maybe even impress the other neighbor kids with some stunts! This is how it’s supposed to be with unified prayer (okay, maybe not the stunt part). Just remember, don’t give up! Practice for short periods of time and be patient with each another!

As we learn to pray together, we will grow in God’s kind of love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 states, “[Love] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil…” Paraphrased, this basically means, none of us are perfect, so be patient and kind with each other while we all grow in our walk with God! It means choose to believe your spouse is trying their best and encourage them when they pray.

This is what we were talking about earlier when we compared unified prayer to a tennis doubles team practicing daily. When we make the effort to get ourselves unified in the small things like daily prayer, trials are so much easier to overcome!

If you and your spouse have had challenges with prayer together, don’t be discouraged. Just start by thanking God together each day for the good things He has done in your life and in the lives of those around you. Focus on God’s goodness!

We believe in you and are cheering you on! 

Pastors Shaun & Amy 


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God’s Kind of Marriage

God’s kind of marriage is like two masterfully trained and highly skilled tennis players who are experts at playing doubles together. Whenever a ball comes at them, they know instinctively how to work as a team to be most effective. At times they get tired, yet they don’t give up. They win the large majority of their matches because of their diligent practice together and acquired skill, and when they do, the victory is exhilarating.

Likewise, because of living in an imperfect world, there are challenges we encounter. When we realize we are on the same team and face obstacles together, we become much more effective, plus the process is abundantly more rewarding.

To be the best team possible, we could think of our daily prayer time together as our marriage unity practice. Just as a sports team practices together daily before they ever come to game day, we practice unity through prayer before trials and obstacles come in order to be consistently victorious. This prayer time gets us on the same page as a couple. It builds a unified vision and increases respect between us. It fuels us to experience increased marriage stability, joy, and emotional peace.

We like to compare daily prayer to a welding torch. When a truly good weld is made with two pieces of metal by an experienced welder, it is stronger where the two pieces come together than at any other place on the metal.

This is what prayer does to a marriage. It welds it together so perfectly that when challenges occur, rather than having anger and division, the marriage will not bend to the pressures. Both husband and wife continue to walk in love towards each other, refusing to allow strife in their relationship, and it causes the enemy not to get access. It’s really putting James 4:7 into practice daily. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

  

Matthew 18:19-20 says, “That if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” If you study the word used for “agree” in the original Scripture, it means to be of one heart on something. In other words, not only your words have to be in agreement, but your hearts also have to be in agreement.
 
A married couple in unity is definitely two in agreement. There is no stronger union between humans than the marriage covenant made before God, because it represents our relationship with God. Therefore, the enemy tries to make married couples ignorant of their power together.
 

We experienced a large challenge in our early years of marriage. There were some inappropriate situations going on where I worked. Amy and I had discussed that I should start looking for a new job. One day after another situation occurred, I resigned and had to go home to tell Amy I had left my job and we were going to have to move quickly because my work was connected to our housing.

As I walked in the door, I wasn’t sure how to give Amy the news, so I just blurted out, “I left my job and we have to find a new place to live within ten days!” To my surprise, Amy got a huge smile on her face and said, “Praise the Lord! It’s about time! Let’s praise God right now for the great things He’s about to do for us!”

In challenging times, it’s essential to remember nothing catches God by surprise! We praised God with all of our hearts, thanking him for the new job I would soon have and the better home we knew by faith He had already prepared for us. Within one week we met an amazing couple who had a beautiful home for rent. It was significantly better than we had before. As crazy as it sounds, we told them we didn’t have money for a deposit and I didn’t have a job yet, but would soon. They actually said yes, lowered the rent they were asking by one-third each month in exchange for us shoveling their driveway in the winter, and even waved the deposit because they said they just liked us! God did miracle after miracle!

Within three weeks I had a new job which paid twice as much! The job also came with great insurance benefits which we didn’t have before! In addition to all this, the new company I worked for even reimbursed my college tuition. That’s the favor of God!

As we walked through this trying situation, we never became angry at each other nor allowed bitterness to enter. We trusted God would continue to keep us in his will. Sure, we were tempted at times to worry and be upset. We could have cried and said “Why did this happen God? It isn’t fair!”

It didn’t look good and it definitely didn’t feel good, but prayer time together had built our unity in advance just like the sports team analogy we shared. Prayer had prepared us for a tough spot in the game and when it came, we passed the test and received the victory God had prepared for us!

As we practice unity by praying together when things are up, it empowers and equips us to be good at unity when things are down. When life gets tough and other couples may have breakdowns, you and your spouse will be prepared to win!

With love, 

Pastors Shaun & Amy 


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Staying Power: Part 2

Doing things God’s way isn’t always easy. Anything worth having requires effort! During hard times, remember this great quote from Charles Kettering: “No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.” This is also true with marriage. If we give up when things are the worst, we will never be able to experience God’s best. A rainbow comes after the storm, not before it.
 
It’s often in the early years that many couples face their biggest challenges. Studies show most divorces take place within the first seven years of a marriage. The wedding is joyous, but then the challenges of life in a crazy world show up and people have to daily make the choice, “…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Many couples happily married over thirty years have told us the toughest years were in the first half, but they are thankful they worked it out. They wouldn’t have had all the joyous years together if they had not persevered and worked through those early challenges!
 
Studies have shown couples who choose to stay together and work out their problems are more often happier than those who choose divorce. One article stated, “Researchers also found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.” Research also showed “Divorce did not typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a sense of mastery. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married.”
 
To achieve success in life and marriage, it’s essential we learn how to ride out the rough waves. Through challenging times, many couples begin to take their frustrations out on family and associate feelings from life’s disappointments with their spouse or kids. They may be disillusioned with their marriage, thinking the relationship is their main problem. However, in reality, marriage was designed by God to be a haven from life’s challenges. If something seems out of sync, it’s wise to look to those with a strong and long-term marriage who can give us some perspective and direction, rather than just jumping to another ship.
 
When a couple puts God first and builds a spiritual bond with each other, this is the first step in building a strong relationship that will weather the test of time. When hard times come, we will have a strong foundation that isn’t easily shaken.
 
A couple can be so spiritually out of touch with God and each other that they don’t even know this important bond is missing in their relationship. Then one day something major happens, and they realize they have lost (or never developed) their spiritual foundation. Once a couple chooses to put God first and build or renew their spiritual bond, God is able to move mightily on their behalf. He can and will establish deeper love and joy, as well as reveal His divine plan and purpose for their relationship together.
 
I pray this encourages you, 
Pastor Shaun

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